Directed by: Walter Hill
With the wild success of The Expendables ‘80s action heroes like Schwarzenegger, Statham, Lundgren, Van Damme, Stallone, and others have all received a new lease on their cinematic lives (while someone like Bruce Willis hasn’t seemed to have stopped working). Needless to say, while Arnie’s The Last Stand is garnering lukewarm reviews, we have to say that — for whatever reason — Stallone’s Bullet to the Head is not only an exciting, well-paced, action flick that demonstrates why he has been such a draw all these years, it clearly shows that the action star doesn’t appear quite so old as the 67 years of age that he actually is.
In this well-made pot-boiler, career hitman, Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) is a stone-cold killer who is very good at what he does. However, after his latest job where his partner winds up getting killed, Jimmy finds that he has to do something about it. That “something”: causes him to enter into an unlikely alliance with very by-the-book out-of-town detective Taylor Kwon (Kang) to bring down Keegan (Momoa) the ruthless killer who not only killed Jimmy’s partner (Jon Seda), but Kwon’s partner (Holt McCallany) as well.
While the team-up sounds hackneyed (uptight square cop partners with chaotic, hard-as-nails killer) the pairing totally works to which we give credit to the direction of Hill who has been behind the camera since ’67, and has directed many of our own personal favorite films). Set against the backdrop of New Orleans (referred to as Crescent City in the film) the pair crawl their way through the seedy underworld as they slowly climb the ladder to discover the identity (and reason behind) the killer of their respective partners.
For his part, Stallone plays the role of the stoic career gunman who is bound by his own code of ethics most excellently. The film’s Spartan plot, colorful locals, and unrepentant, rampant violence (shootings, stabbings, explosions, beatings) relentlessly drives the story forward as we see a grudging bond develop between these two men as they each close in on their own goals. Adding quite nicely to the mix is the ever lovely Shahi who plays Jimmy’s tattooed and biker-tough daughter Lisa — a far cry from her Fairly Legal role as lawyer-cum-negotiator Kate Reed. Plus we will also admit to a certain guilt pleasure to see Slater (whom we always enjoy) in a film again.
The film plays out well, keeping the stripped-down script to the bare bones of having both men hunt down the killer and getting the job done. There are the requisite amounts of “signature” lines and just a sprinkling amount of humor as the story twists and turns through the labyrinthine underworld through which they must creep to mete out the street justice that is eventually delivered. Not great drama, but not over-the-top, blockbuster either, Bullet to the Head is just enough of tough-guy macho to keep us going until The Expendables 3.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web.